Gov in drive against encroachment

PHUKET: Phuket Governor Udomsak Uswarangkura has ordered the Phuket office of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE) to step up efforts to protect the island’s natural resources after four cases of encroachment on Government forest land were reported in February.

Speaking at the monthly meeting of government department heads at Phuket Provincial Hall this morning, Gov Udomsak ordered Ong-ad Thanachanmongkol, head of the Phuket MNRE office, to work with police to catch and punish anyone who encroaches on state land.

Of the four encroachment cases, three cases covering a total of 37 rai were on national forest land in Bangkanoon National Forest in Tambon Thepkrasattri, Thalang. The alleged encroacher in two of these cases, reported on February 5 and 13 and totaling 22 rai, was listed as Iad Mapheng.

The alleged encroachment constituted a loss to the state of more than 1.6 million baht. A machete was taken as evidence in both cases. Officers from Border Patrol Police Unit 425 assisted in both arrests.

No suspect or evidence was listed for the third plot of 15 rai, but damage was estimated at more than 1.1 million baht.

The fourth case, reported on February 15, involved encroachment on more than 2 rai of protected mangrove forest along Klong Bang Chee Laow, a tributary to Klong Tha Cheen, located off Soi Honsai in Tambon Rassada.

The alleged encroachers were listed as Chotima Wichachutikul, Boonchoo Permsuwan and Praphitr Netwong. Seized as evidence were two machetes, a hoe, an ax, a saw, three hammers and a measuring tape. Damage was estimated at more than 287,000 baht.

During the meeting, the Governor also instructed K. Ong-ad to pay special attention to the Nakkerd Hills between Karon and Chalong, an area he is worried is at increased risk of encroachment now that the Mingmongkol Buddha project has been established in the area.

The Governor also urged the provincial committee responsible for reviewing Initial Environmental Examinations (IEEs) on real estate developments to conduct more follow-up inspections to ensure work proceeds in accordance with IEE stipulations, he said.

The panel should not simply leave this important task to the authorities in the tambons or municipalities where the projects are located, he added.

In the case of the halted Villa Santi project in Kalim, Gov Udomsak said he had decided for the time being not to approve renewals of work permits for four or five foreigners employed by the project development company.

“Look at the Villa Santi project, which has denuded our mountainside. After I ordered work on the project to be halted, four or five foreign employees [of that project’s development team] came to me seeking approval for their work permit [renewals] … I haven’t given it yet.

“I think it’s better that foreigners who come here and make our hillsides bald go back to their own countries,” he said.

Phuket News
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